There are two main program types for those interested in becoming a nurse practitioner:
MSN: Nurse Practitioner
Many NPs choose to earn an MSN in order to enter this advanced nursing career. An MSN is a post-graduate degree which offers a variety of specialization areas for NPs, and those who already have a BSN can typically complete the program in about 2 years. With many schools offering an MSN: Nurse Practitioner program in both online and classroom-based formats, this degree option is an excellent choice for those who want to enter the field as quickly as possible.
DNP: Nurse Practitioner
For those who already hold an MSN degree, or for those who want to earn an even more advanced education and hold the most prestigious NP positions, Doctor of Nursing Practice: Nurse Practitioner options are available. BSN to DNP programs take roughly 3 to 4 years to complete, while MSN to DNP programs can be completed in around 2 years. DNP nurse practitioner programs also allow students to enter a variety of advanced specializations. A DNP is not to be confused with a Ph.D. in Nursing, which is a research-focused degree.
Nurse Practitioner Program Concentrations
A big advantage of going into the nurse practitioner field is that it allows you to specialize in a particular area of medicine. Most MSN and DNP nurse practitioner programs offer the ability to go into a number of APRN (advanced practice registered nurse) roles and population foci, including:
Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Adult gerontology NPs care for patients from early teenage years through old age. There are two main adult gerontology pathways: adult gerontology acute care NP, and adult gerontology primary care NP. The acute care NP works in emergency, surgery, and other acute settings, while the primary care NP works mainly in an ambulatory setting. Adult gerontology NPs can prescribe medication, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and evaluate the overall effectiveness of a patient’s treatment plan. Education is another main task, as this type of NP communicates with patients and their families regarding self-management of conditions and preventative health techniques.
Family Nurse Practitioner
One of the most popular NP specialties, the family nurse practitioner (FNP) cares for families across the lifespan. Many FNPs are the main primary care providers for their patients, building lasting relationships and working with a high level of autonomy. FNPs promote health and wellness via educating patients about disease prevention, but they also treat illnesses and injuries that can range in severity. Each state has guidelines about what tasks an FNP can complete, so they may work independently or alongside a physician depending on where they are located.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Neonatal nurse practitioners provide care for preterm and term infants, as well as children up to 2 years of age. The program builds upon the baccalaureate maternal-child nursing content and the student’s clinical experience. Neonatal nursing breaks down the role into distinct levels, with most nurses working in either intermediate or intensive care nurseries. Aside from caring for infants and very young children, some of whom may have severe health issues, neonatal NPs also attend high-risk births and perform neonatal resuscitation if necessary.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
With both acute and primary care options, pediatric nurse practitioner programs prepare nurses to provide care to both healthy and chronically ill children in a variety of settings. They diagnose and treat childhood illness and injuries, administer immunizations, and perform annual physicals. Patience, the ability to communicate, and a desire to work with kids are a must for the role. They typically work alongside pediatricians or independently to provide quality care to infants, children, and young adults.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
The psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioner assesses patients for psychiatric disorders, implements psychotherapy with individuals and groups, and provides mental health rehabilitation services. They work with patients of all ages to treat cognitive and behavioral disorders, and may also work with abuse or trauma victims as well. They also prescribe and monitor medication regimens and track patients’ progress over time. Psychiatric NPs can find employment in hospitals, mental health facilities, clinics, and more.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
The women’s health NP program prepares nurses to provide advanced care to women throughout the lifespan. They educate women on reproductive health and prevention techniques, and also provide primary care through chronic or acute illnesses. Women’s health NPs provide a variety of gynecological health services, and may assist with prenatal and postpartum care. They can be found in hospitals, outpatient care facilities, community-based settings, and other types of healthcare centers.